The operator of a Western Australian business has been charged with breaching Australian Consumer Law after allegedly selling fake ultrasound images to expectant mothers.
The WA Department of Commerce’s Consumer Protection division confirmed to SmartCompany it has began prosecuation against Rawinia Hayes of Bunbury, trading as Amazing 4D Imaging, on multiple charges under Australian Consumer Law, alleging she made false and misleading representations to consumers.
Consumer Protection WA received 76 written complaints about the home-based business between January 30 and February 26, after some of the company’s customers discovered they were given identical ultrasound images when they shared what they thought were images of their unborn babies on Facebook.
Allegations about the ultrasound images, which some customers claimed were taken straight from Google image searches, were first aired in the Bunbury Crime Stoppers Facebook group at the end of January.
The Bunbury Mail reported in January more than 100 people who believed they had been given fake ultrasound photos had also joined a ‘victims only’ online support group, while a ‘baby photo scam’ Facebook page attracted more than 1200 members
‘We had an unprecedented 76 actual written complaints in relation to that issue,” Debbie Butler from WA Consumer Protection told the ABC this week.
“That was huge for us and that’s culminated in charges having been laid for false and misleading representation,” Butler said.
Melissa Monks, special counsel at King & Wood Mallesons, told SmartCompany this case highlights the “power of social media in bringing to light potential breaches of the law when emotional and angry customers believed they’ve been wronged”.
“If the consumer complaints are correct and the regulator takes action, this business will face the prospect of fines of up to $1.1 million per breach amongst other others,” Monks says.
“Although this may be the least of its problems given the reputational risk it is facing right now. Bunbury is a relatively small town and surviving even unsubstantiated claims like this can be difficult for a business.”
While Monks says businesses are generally familiar with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is “very visible in the media”, they are often less familiar with the state and territory-based consumer law regulators, such as Consumer Protection WA, “who can and do enforce the same consumer protection laws as the ACCC though in relation to localised issues”.
The charges against Amazing 4D Imagery will be heard in the Bunbury Magistrates Court on January 12.
SmartCompany was unable to contact Amazing 4D Imaging.